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JISC-SHIBBOLETH  September 2005

JISC-SHIBBOLETH September 2005

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Subject:

Athens DA / Shibboleth gateway and classic Athens

From:

Simon McLeish <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Discussion list for Shibboleth developments <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 16 Sep 2005 17:15:15 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (51 lines)

Hi,

We're currently in the process of joining the Athens Shibboleth gateway
with our Shibboleth 1.2 (soon to be 1.3) IdP, and our plan for doing
this is to gradually move our Athens-protected resources from classic
Athens to access via the gateway, starting with the lower use resources
to ensure that everything is properly tested and to minimise the risks
if something goes wrong.

The use case where things don't work is for a user who first accesses a
resource through the gateway, and then in the same browser session
access a second resource using classic Athens (e.g. Westlaw, which is
not currently gateway compliant). The second access fails, and it is
impossible to get to the classic Athens login page.

Access to a resource via the gateway sets four cookies for the session
(i.e. until closing the browser), one of which (named ath_da, with the
value 1) seems to then prevent access to other resources using classic
Athens. The behaviour exhibited is to direct the users to the Shibboleth
gateway, rather than to a classic Athens login. This happens both with
resources on the list of Shibboleth compliant resources which don't work
for the LSE (because we're not currently sending the gateway the
eduPersonTargetedID or for other reasons; this includes Lexis-Nexis) and
classic Athens resources listed as non-compliant (such as Westlaw UK).
The result is that access to these resources is not possible through the
route we want to direct our users to take, or not possible at all (in a
browser session where the user has already visited a Shibboleth
compliant list). If you block cookies from athensams.net, the gateway
just delivers the user to the classic Athens login page for every
resource. 

We feel that without a simple fix, this makes it much more difficult for
us to move to using the gateway for our general users until all the
resources protected by Athens which we subscribe to are compliant, or
until the gateway ceases to set the cookie. We can't think of a simple
enough work around to make it a service that our users will be willing
to access, and so we are effectively back to the position that we have
to use classic Athens until something changes - not at all what we wish
to be the case, as an early Shibboleth adopter. 

This issue has already been raised on the Athens DA list by, with no
response (the question was whether this was an issue for DA users as
well), and I have taken it up with the Athens helpdesk. Hopefully there
will be a resolution soon, as until that time any institution which
wishes to move to gateway use will have serious difficulties in doing
so.

Simon McLeish
Projects Technical Officer,
London School of Economics

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